Dog Pound: Film Review

Although it has a visceral intensity, this teen-centered prison movie doesn't avoid the familiar tropes of its genre.

Kim Chapiron's Tribeca Film Festival award-winner depicts the brutal struggle for survival in a youth correctional facility.

Its main difference being that its protagonists are teenagers, Kim Chapiron’s Dog Pound replays all of the familiar tropes of the prison-movie genre in its portrait of three inmates at a youth correctional facility. Inspired by British filmmaker Alan Clarke’s 1979 film Scum, this 2010 Tribeca Film Festival award-winner packs a visceral intensity without breaking any new ground.

We’re introduced to the three central characters in an opening sequence depicting them committing the respective crimes that have gotten them into a Montana youth correctional center. Fifteen-year-old Alex (Mateo Morales) steals a car; 16-year-old Davis (Shane Kippel) deals drugs; and 17-year-old Butch (Adam Butcher) assaults a correctional officer.

The facility -- differing little from its adult-oriented counterparts -- is a bleak and typically dehumanizing one in which the inmates face more danger from each other than the guards. In this case, it mainly comes in the form of Banks (Taylor Poulin), who, along with his cronies, viciously assaults Butch and Davis and becomes the target of the former’s obsessive plan for revenge. It all culminates in, what else, the inevitable prison riot.

With its most interesting character being a tough but sympathetic guard (Lawrence Bayne), Dog Pound doggedly goes through its familiar brutal paces. While its screenplay, co-written by Chapiron and Jeremie Delon, thankfully avoids sentimentality, there’s really no one to root for here, nor does it find anything particularly new to say in its depiction of the facility’s harsh, Darwinian environment.

The largely non-professional young actors fail to make their characters particularly compelling, with the result that we care little about their eventual fates. As the violence escalates and blood flows in increasing amounts, our interest only wanes.

Opens March 29 (Tribeca Films)

Cast: Adam Butcher, Shane Kippel, Mateo Morales, Taylour Poulin, Dewshane Williams, Lawrence Bayne

Director: Kim Chapiron

Screenwriters: Kim Chapiron, Jeremie Delon

Producer: Georges Bermann

Director of photography: Andre Chemetoff

Editor: Benjamin Weill

Costume designer: Brenda McLeese

Composers: Balhormea, K’Naan, Nikkfurie

Not rated, 88 min.